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innovation DAILY

Here we highlight selected innovation related articles from around the world on a daily basis.  These articles related to innovation and funding for innovative companies, and best practices for innovation based economic development.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Anjali Athavaley recently described why it is so hard to design an umbrella that won't collapse or flip inside out. It's not that companies aren't trying - they are experimenting with space-age materials, testing umbrellas in high-tech wind tunnels and even consulting experts in aerodynamics to find a "perfect" umbrella that doesn't flip inside out on a particularly gusty day. Any incremental improvements, of course, come with costs.

Once you get to the $20 price point for an umbrella, there does appear to be some improvement in umbrella performance, and at the $100 price point, you can build a superior canopy-style umbrella. However, the problem (from the perspective of umbrella manufacturers) is that consumers are only willing to plunk down $6 for a cheap throwaway umbrella. Once you get to the $100 price point, the size of the umbrella becomes so enormous that it's completely impractical for anyone other than golfers.

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Few will dispute Amazon’s role as current king of the e-commerce space, but this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference raised an interesting question: Did Amazon miss the boat on social commerce?

At the conference last week in New York, John Caplan, CEO, OpenSky; Rob Kalin, CEO, Etsy; Susan Lyne, CEO, Gilt Groupe and Dan Porter, CEO, OMGPOP sat down to discuss the idea of social commerce and where the marketplace is going in the future in terms of both monetization and socialization. All of the panelists seemed to agree that Amazon will continue to reign supreme in “commodity commerce” but will not be able to lead social commerce. Kalin stated, “I think Amazon is doing a good job monopolizing the boring way of shopping.” Caplan agreed, saying that “Amazon will own commodity commerce. They won’t lead the way to relationship commerce and more and more people are craving relationships in shopping.”

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Siguler Guff & Company, a US-based private equity firm with over $8.5 billion of assets under management, is investing $250 million in a high-tech hub outside Moscow that is often referred to as Russia’s ‘answer to Silicon Valley’, according to various reports.

Siguler Guff, owner of a subsidiary called Russia Partners, has made the investment public right after a visit to innovation center Skolkovo.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently invited a group of US venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to visit the high-tech hub, which is located in Moscow’s woody suburbs, in an effort to convince them of his plans to spur economic modernization and reduce its dependence on oil and gas by giving birth to a local ‘Silicon Valley’.

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http://www.azdailysun.com/content/tncms/live/global/resources/images/logo.gifSwitching off the pilot light on your furnace or fireplace during warm summer months will save natural gas and save you money.

Consider that the pilot light on a gas fireplace can use half the total gas that fireplace burns in one year!

Depending on gas prices, you can save about $50 on bills each year if you turn off a pilot light during warm months.

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This is a talk by Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote at the quarterly Founder Showcase in Silicon Valley. Phil discusses the detailed revenues and underlying statistics, including conversion rates, of Evernote. Phil is a Mentor at the Founder Institute, where this talk was first given.

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There was a time when it looked as if David Kelley’s design career might have been summed up in two words: “Lavatory Occupied.”

Kelley, then a fresh grad from Carnegie Mellon, was working for aviation giant Boeing when he helped design the bathroom sign that went into 747s. “I spent six months on that,” recalls Kelley, now 59. “I had a narrow role. I wanted the ability to come up with solutions that were new to the world and to see them have an impact.”

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After exploring the mobile and Internet landscapes in Shanghai and Beijing, the GeeksOnAPlane (GOAP) group (30+ techies mostly from the Silicon Valley) continued their Asian field trip to Korea today. In Beijing, the GOAP attended two of China’s largest tech conferences: CHINICT, “the largest conference on China tech innovation” (which was livestreamed on TechCrunch), and the “Global Mobile Internet Conference” (GMIC), both of which are held in the city every year.

The GOAP got in touch with and gained unfiltered insight from dozens and dozens of local entrepreneurs, VCs and industry observers during the conferences and the events that took place around them. What follows are just a few learnings and impressions the GOAP group picked up during their China web crash course in Beijing (the size of the tech landscape is summarized in my previous post).

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NASA_logoNASA_logoNASA has launched an initiative that will help reach tomorrow’s leaders and innovators and get a younger generation to consider the space agency as a first choice for employment.

On OpenNASA.com, a collaborative blog written by NASA employees  and occasional invited guests, Nick Skytland, a project manager within the Space Life Sciences Directorate at the NASA Johnson Space Center, writes how tomorrow’s leaders want to work for the “cool” company, the next Google, or a company that is open to new ideas.

“And so I wonder, how do we make NASA cool again? How do we use our space program as a catalyst to pass along that innovative, entrepreneurial, American spirit that got us to the moon in less than 10 years and launched a generation of innovators?” Skytland asks. “Or better yet, how do we communicate all the cool things NASA is actually doing?”

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In the wake of the Gulf oil spill atrocity, both The Colbert Report and The Huffington Post did bits on "wind spills." The jokes were especially topical because -- almost, it seemed, in coordination with the oil spill -- the Interior Department announced it was clearing the way for final approval of Cape Wind, the long-beleaguered Nantucket Sound offshore wind project.

The Obama Interior Department is pushing as hard as it can to create opportunities for offshore energy. By approving Cape Wind, the Administration demonstrated that it is willing to put the nation's energy needs ahead of resolvable environmental and aesthetic objections. So, will the U.S.' first offshore "wind spills" be in Massachusetts waters?

Frank Maisano, an energy expert with Washington, D.C. law and lobbying firm Bracewell-Giuliani who has worked on behalf of offshore wind projects for years, says developers face three significant obstacles: (1) economics, (2) transmission and (3) technology.

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Should BP crowdsource potential solutions for the Gulf oil spill?Clifford Krauss of the New York Times reports on BP’s latest effort to cap the oil leak, called ‘top kill’. He notes the following:

“The consequences for BP are profound: A successful capping of the leaking well could finally begin to mend the company’s brittle image after weeks of failed efforts, and perhaps limit the damage to wildlife and marine life from reaching catastrophic levels.

A failure could mean several months more of leaking oil, devastating economic and environmental impacts across the gulf region, and mounting financial liabilities for the company. BP has already spent an estimated $760 million in fighting the spill, and two relief wells it is drilling as a last resort to seal the well may not be completed until August.”

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A1274815007941fter 15 years of working with companies and sometimes governments, helping them to manage the sustainability and the issues that affect sustainable development, I still oftentimes find it a fuzzy concept. So I really appreciate it when something comes along that helps even me to put a real image to the issues.

This time, that image has come from (for me) a surprising place. Not too long ago Newsweek released a special issue that looks at some of the places that could disappear or be radically changed as global warming exerts a growing influence on the world in which we live (100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear; Newsweek Special Issue, Spring 2010).

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Success Made SimpleAbout a month ago I received an email from Erik Wesner asking me to review his new book “Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive.” I said “Yes” because I was completely intrigued by the topic. This is about the second time in as many months as I’ve seen Amish and business success linked together. And I couldn’t wait to receive the review copy of the book and see what all the chatter was about.

Success Made SimpleI wondered what it was about Amish simplicity that called to Erik Wesner over the siren song of technology, social media-driven relationships and mobile apps that the rest of us have been following.

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